More Christmas dinner pictures

Still working on the pc, getting things set up. Realized this morning there are a few more programs I want on it.

Here is a picture of my two desserts, before I cut into them, waiting on my hutch for after dinner. Look yummy, don't they? (I still have some left of both if they look good to you - send me a note and we'll work out a way to get you some!)

And here is dinner for the adults on Christmas day (the children were uninterested so had their own little feast elsewhere.) In the foreground is prime rib, seasoned with the rub I had made with my mortar and pestle earlier in the day, which I posted a picture of on Christmas day. It involves garlic, fennel seeds, fresh thyme, pepper and olive oil. The smell of it in the oven is so wonderful, and the impact of flavor is melt in your mouth amazing.

This was served with mashed potaoes (not the low fat kind - these had lots of butter and used cream in place of milk or stock,) sauted carrots and oven roasted asparagus. Yummy!

Unfortunately, my probe thermometer chose that day to die, giving temperature readings between 44 degrees and 382 degrees, so having set it to 125 did me no good at all, and hence the roast ended up a little too rare, even for me. Next day leftovers, reheated in the oven, however, were amazingly good - the perfect balance between rare tenderness and flavor.

And I think that is all I can say at this point about Christmas day dinner!

No new meals to post about in the meantime. Having low key items such as hamburgers and coleslaw, taco's and sheppard's pie, so good, but nothing postable.

Happy Eating!

Details to be delayed

Here are a few pictures of the desserts I made for Christmas. I'll try to post more about them later.

This is a white chocolate cranberry cake, which I read about on another blog but can't for the life of me remember from who's blog! So if anyone knows where I copied this from, please send me a note reminding me!

This is Cheesecake with apples (but without the topping), brought to me by Ivonne, of Cream Puffs in Venice. I don't own a torch and did not want to put my glass bottomed springform pan under the broiler, hence the lack of topping.

And this is why things will be a bit delayed - my new pc! I am still in the process of moving things over and setting things up, while my children are home from school for holidays, my husband is home, and my teenaged brother is visiting. So it is going to take me some time!

Merry Christmas everyone

Hohohoho to everyone!

Lots, and lots of pictures.

Bob (my mixter, nicknamed by my young brother) and I have been very busy, so busy that while I've snapped some pictures, I haven't had time to come blog them all!

So here is some pictures of a few things I made late last week, and a peek at what this family had for breakfast this morning!

The top picture is of some fudgey chocolate cookies, the recipe I found in a magazine I bought to read while sitting in the waiting room of my children's doctor's office for walk-in hours to be done. The wait was very long (and I knew it would be, so I came prepared), but fortunately my son did not have strep-throat and I found a funky recipe or two! And sometime after Christmas I will find where in the mountain of cookbooks and magazines I left that magazine and put up either a link or the recipe for those cookies. They were a huge hit at the friends gathering we hosted on Saturday, being very fudgey and chocolatey!

Next you will see a picture of some sugar cookies, the Sour Cream Sugar Cookies featured in the December Today's Parent magazine. I really like the recipes from the magazine - they are real, use reasonable ingredients that don't cost a fortune, and are kid tested and family friendly. These cookies are a good example - I made the dough early in the day with help from my 4 year old, which chilled in the fridge while both children were at school. After school we pulled out the decorations and they designed and got fancy while I rolled and cut. The scraps really do re-roll very easily and the cookies still taste tender.

I didn't just make cookies, I also made some mini quiches which I could prepare well in advance, freeze, and then cook right before our little party. Bacon, Leek and Cheese mini-quiches, from Fine Cooking, were simple to make, froze wonderfully and cooked up golden, crisp and tasty. And they smelled very, very good.

The recipe is in the December issue, but not showing up on the website, though I haven't logged in to see if it is visible for subscribers only. So if anyone wants the recipe for the, just drop me an email and I'll jot it down for them.

I haven't tried reheating them yet, since 4 dozen mini quiches was alot for 5 adults to eat, especially when there was a table full of other goodies to eat, including another banana cream pie, more cookies and sweets, veggies, fruit, dip, and homemade latke's in the kitchen.

Finally we arrive at this morning, Christmas day. In our family, there are a few little traditions. Calories don't count on this day, so usually breakfast involves alot of very fattening items that you can just pop in the oven, Pilsburry buns and turnovers, while bacon is cooked up and eggs are made to order. Last year my oldest son made a request - Shortbread waffles with fruit and whipped cream. Well, these things are so decadent that you need a special day to have the excuse to have them. So when he repeated the request for this year, well all agreed.

Let us begin.....

You'll need a waffle maker for one - and for this, I recommend you not leave it straight on your counter. Put a sheet pan underneath it, to catch the drips. While it heats up, mix together in a small bowl 1 3/4 cup of flour and 1 cup of sugar. In a larger bowl, whisk together 4 eggs until they are fluffy. Add the flour mixture to the eggs and beat to combine. Then mix in 1 cup of very soft, but not melted, butter (I use salted since there is no other salt added.) And squeeze in the juice of half a lemon. Mix it well.

That's the recipe, only 5 ingredients.

You'll need the sheet pan because melted butter will leak out of the iron while the waffles crisp up to a golden brown color, though it won't be a uniform dark. These waffles will be soft upon removal from the maker (use a spatula to get underneath them and lift them to a plate,) but will crisp up on the plate.

These waffles are not the kind you serve with maple syrup, though bacon is a nice side. Instead, mound them high with freshly whipped cream, mine was made with a touch of fresh vanilla bean in it, and then top the cream with fresh berries. Since it is December and there are not good, fresh berries around here, I used frozen ones, defrosted with a touch of sugar to create a nice syrupy sauce with them. And my choices for this year were strawberries and blueberries.

And serve with lots of good orange juice. Coffee if you like it, which we don't. Which is why we used the mugs from my good dishes for juice instead of coffee. (Hey, I'm willing to let the kids try eating on the good plates today, but not yet willing to let them try crystal glasses!)

Merry Christmas to everyone - and here is one last pictures, a
sneak peek at a part of dinner:

Learning from the expert

One of the problems with Christmas is trying to figure out how to spend time with all of your family. You can't make everyone happy, so usually some middle balance is sought, where everyone is reasonably satisfied.

This last weekend was like that for my little family of four here. We went up for a very short trip to visit 2/3rds of my family, while my sister made the same trip from her portion of Ontario.

As a result, I got to spend some one on one time with my grandmother, making pies for my mother's pre-birthday party. (Insert big happy face here.)

Two banana cream pies were a joint effort. I copied out her recipe for the cream filling, which I then made, and she rolled out the crust for them. My grandmother makes this pie at least once a year, on my grandfather's birthday. When he used to work shift work, he would sometimes be scheduled to work on his birthday. On those days, the boys on the job were a lucky group - she used to send in a pie with him to have for his lunch!

Pastry cream, which basically what the filling is, is not very hard to make, it just requires alot of patience, standing over the stove stirring constantly. In this case, using unfamiliar equipment, I accidentally reversed the order of the pots for the double boiler, so I did not have the most stable of base to be stirring.

I'd never made pastry cream from scratch before, but had nothing to worry about. Apparently I know enough about cooking to successfully make one on the first try. My cream was just the right consistency in thickness, sweet and smooth. And just right for putting down over top of a layer of bananas and hand made pie crust.

Most banana cream pies are topped with cream, but not my grandmothers. The meringue topping probably came about out of economy. The pastry cream requires 3 egg yolks, so why not use the remaining whites to make a topping for the pie with?

So after a lovely morning baking with my grandmother, something I haven't done since I was a child, we were able to present to my mother two beautiful pies to end her birthday dinner with. (Which was also made by the joint effort of my grandmother, grandfather and I. We made her Hawaiian spare ribs, with the sauce I have posted about before.)

The only downside to this pie making expedition didn't come from the pies itself, but from my little boy. He was so sick this weekend that he was not able to enjoy a piece, though he was offered some and declined in favor of plain banana. Instead he has asked me to please make one for him another time, which I have promised to do. That other time is Friday, for a little gathering with friends, where I will see if I can still make a good pie without the assistance of the expert pie maker, my grandmother. And I plan to have my little assistant helping me.

Dear Blog, Please forgive my recent neglect.

Yes, I have been very neglectful of my blog lately.

It's not that I haven't been cooking. I've cooked at least one item a day, though not all of it has been new, or very "exciting." I've had a very good success rate for meals with the family lately, partially because I have not been doing anything too "strange."

So here's a quick little recap of some of the items I've made in the last little while, along with today's baking.

This fun looking item is an oddball version of stuffed pork tenderloin. I had this desire to stuff one, so picked one up, had my butcher butterfly it for me, with the intention of stuffing it with apples, cinnamon and raisins.

Good concept, bad execution.

I only cut up two apples, but that was alot of apple for one little tenderlion. So instead I layed the apples out on top and baked it together. The apples softened, and let go of some juices into the tenderloin below, and the raisins also gained a bit of moisture and softened up.

I liked it, but next time I will rethink the actual process of stuffing before I prepare the item to be stuffed.

A few days later I went Greek, but in my own kitchen instead of the take out counter or the premade souvlaki from my butcher (which is quite good), though I did purchase my tzaziki premade. (I don't like cucumber, but do like tzasiki, though I doubt I would if I made it myself.

These chicken breast, marinated in olive oil, lemon juice, garlic and oregano, were very, very moist, and full of flavor. I served them with the dip, grilled pita, red peppers that I had added to the chicken, and sliced cucumber (for the children.) This was a very popular meal and I hope I am able to recreate the marinade again.

Oh and I also had steamed brocolli, which I drizzled with some of the liquid from the chicken - mmmm lemon, garlicky goodness to the veggies as well.

Again chicken here, not as exciting. A whole, roasted chicken. I brined this bird for a few hours, in a combination of kosher salt, cold water, peppercorns and a few cloves of garlic, sliced into the brining liquid. This made my fridge smell very strongly of garlic but I'm not sure it added too much flavor to the chicken (though I served the chicken with a dipping sauce, made from a package I picked up at the grocery store, so the sauce may have over powered the garlic.

This afternoon I did a bit of baking again, making Caramel Shortbread. I had made a batch of this a week or two ago (though it is long gone,) and wanted some in the freezer to take out next week when we have friends over for Christmas. Redoing the recipe today made me realize I had neglected to include the corn syrup in the last batch, which didn't seem to make the least bit of difference to those eating it. Which is good, because in today's batch, I forgot the vanilla. (The recipe has already been tested, and 3 out of 3 testers did not notice the lack of vanilla.)

I've made a small adaptation to this recipe from the hand written copy I was given a few years ago. It calls for making the caramel in a glass bowl in the microwave, stiring every 30 seconds to 1 minutes. That's alot of stiring without much control. Instead, I choose to make the caramel on the stove (and this is where a non-stick pot really comes in handy.) Cooking it on the stove allows me to not only multitask (I started the caramel before the shortbread base, in order to give it lots of time to darken up,) but lets me have more control over how deep the caramel becomes. It takes a bit of stirring, since the butter, syrup and condensed milk do not like to stay together, but in the end, the dark, amber color and thickness of the caramel more than make up for the effort. And since you can do other things while it cooks, letting you come over and occassionally stir, it makes for less of a hassel in the preperation.

Last but not least, here is a lovely photo of some of the little presents I've bought myself recently.

On top is the batch of vanilla beans I purchased off of ebay, which arrived yesterday, soft and fragrant, making my entire main floor smell of vanilla.

Underneath is my signed copy of The Vegan Lunchbox, by Jennifer McCann, whose blog I have referred to before, again called The Vegan Lunchbox. No I have not suddenly gone vegan (obviously) but so far I am very much enjoying the book. It has alot of very cool ideas for the lunch box, some of which my son might actually eat!

The bottom two books are the Ace Bakery Cookbook and More from Ace Bakery. These both came highly recommended to me by Ivonne from Cream Puffs in Venice, a fellow blogger that I can't wait to actually meat in person.

I haven't actually cooked anything from any of these books - I tend to read them front to back first, then go back and choose something. So far I have all three of them at a different stage in reading. :-)

Again, blog, I am sorry for the neglect. I will try to be better, but please have some patience with me as it is almost Christmas, things around here will be busy, and I may have some delays in posting. In the meantime, here is a recipe to make up for the neglect......

Caramel Shortbread

1 1/2 cup softened butter, divided
1/2 cup icing sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/4 cup flour
1 can (300ml) condensed milk
3 tbsp conr syrup
1 tsp vanilla
3 squares semi sweet chocolate (or a handful of chocolate chips)

Preheat oven to 35oF.
Beat 1 cup of butter with icing sugar and salt, until fluffy. Add flour and mix gently to combine. Press into 9x9 greased and floured baking pan (glass pans not recommended for this) with floured fingers. Bake 30-35 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool slightly.
In small pot, preferably non-stick, melt butter over medium-low heat. Add condensed milk and corn syrup and stir to combine. Cook gently, stirring occassionally to recombine mixture, until the caramel turns a dark color. This will take some time, be patient.
Stir in vanilla when the caramel has reached the desired color, then pour over crust.
If using chocolate squares, chop and place in microwave safe bowl (or ziplock bag.) If using chips, put in ziplock bag. Microwave either one to melt, being careful not to heat for too long. I like 20 second time blocks to start. Snip corner from the bag, or use a fork if chocolate is in a bowl, and drizzle the chocolate over the caramel. Chill until firm.

This freezes beautifully (I like them when they are still slightly frozen.) However, if you are going to freeze them, cut them into squares before you freeze them. Or plan to eat a 9x9 square of the shortbread. :-)

More cookies

So more pre-Christmas cookie baking at my place this morning. Actually I spent most of my day in the kitchen, baking up different things, and still have a few more I'd like to make.

First up was Raisin Ruglachs, the recipe for which I found in a little Robin Hood Flour booklette that came in the mail. They looked cool, though mine look absolutely nothing like the picture. I learned really quickly that I am not very good at making even cuttings, getting 12 out of a circle, and after the first half of the dough, gave up and went with 8 instead. The end product was much larger than it should be, but they were neater looking. And they still tasted good, the combination of raspberry jam, cinnamon, sugar and cocoa, all rolled up in a cream cheese dough with raisins. My youngest son loved them, my oldest hated them. Oh well.

Next on my list was Pistachio-Cranberry Biscotti Straws, which I found in my December 2006 Fine Cooking Magazine. The picture for these is lousy, sorry about the blur, though you can still see the pieces of pistachio and cranberries in them.

You can also see they are very thick, mostly because I can't read. I read, then reread, then reread every recipe I make, as well as keeping the recipe nearby to consult with. In this case, I couldn't seem to grasp what 1/3 inch was, and instead cut my biscotti into what I considered a good size. So my version resulted in 13 thick, but nice and crunchy (and very yummy) biscotti, rather than the 2 1/2 dozen the recipe suggests can be made. Hehehe.

The last of today's baking was more shortbread, this time Shortbread Meltaways, again from the Robin Hood magazine. These cookies actually are on page 8, whereas the Rugalachs are on page 9. Funny how that worked out.

I barely tried these cookies, not being in the mood for shortbread, but from the amount left on the plate when I cleaned up after dinner, these went over very well. I know both my children tried them and enjoyed them, and my husband told me I wouldn't like them at all so I should just leave them all for him. I think that was a compliment.

So plan for tomorrow involves making some brownies, but not for Christmas. Instead my children and I are contributing to a package going out to a Canadian soldier who is stationed in Afghanistan, though we don't know the name of the person who will be getting them, and won't unless they choose to write us back. Brownie bites seem like a good choice, and I know they handle mailing well.

Happy first weekend in December everyone!

Bowls full of potatoes

Winter finally arrived in Ottawa on Friday. And it came in with vengance! Snow, and ice, blowing and freezing everything in sight! It was the kind of day that said, "Stay in your pj's, put the fire on, and find a book, cause we are not going outside today!"

Unfortunately, I had to go outside. Work, picking up kids, essentials like that.

My plan ahead for dinner that night involved nachos with cheese. Low key, simple, loved by all and a break from routine and proper meals.

I, however, wanted something warmer, healthier, and that would make up for having to get out of my pj's and facing the cold, icy world. I wanted soup. And I didn't care if no one else in the house would eat it (they didn't.)

With my food processor doing the shredding for me, this soup assembled in minutes. And not having to peel the sweet potatoes really helped as well!

Minor changes - I didn't put in a chipotle pepper but instead sprinkled in a bit of cayenne pepper. I didn't really want to open a can for one pepper, and also didn't want too much spice. I wanted to taste the potatoes. I also sprinkled in a bit of fresh nutmeg, just to provide some balance with the cinnamon.

This soup looked, and smelled, alot like an apple sauce (which is probably the only reason my children were willing to try the first, and only, spoonful that they ate.) It tasted, however, like extra smooth sweet potatoes, not overwhelming, not too much of cinnamon, and had a slight background heat to it. Just enough to warm up that final bit. And exactly what I both wanted, and needed, as the first storm of winter blew around my house.

Happy Onion Day!

I'm a little late (Blogger problems whenever I tried to do this), so Happy Belated Onion Day!

In Berne (Switzerland) the annual Zibelemärit (onion market) is be held on the fourth Monday in November. This year it will take place on Monday, 27th November. More than 50 tons of onions - in artistically woven plaits - are offered on this day on more then 300 market stalls.

No, I haven't suddenly taken up researching onions or events around onions. Last week, Ivonne over at Cream Puffs in Venice posted a bunch of fascinating little items, included among them information about a blog event celebrating the humble onion, hosted by Zorra of Kochtopf. Sounded like fun to me.

I'm sorry to say I was uninspiring in my selection. I didn't go searching among my books for something new and fancy to make but fell back on simple and warm. Warm has been a very important part in meal making lately, with the weather usually involving rain and strong winds (instead of snow.) With the prerequists of onions, simple, and warm in mind, what else would I make but French Onion soup?

Again, no recipe involved. Instead I slowly sauted up a bunch of sweet onions with some olive oil and butter, seasoned with salt and pepper. When they reached the color I wanted, I added some stock, deglazing as I mixed the liquid and onions together. Crostini's, toasted in the oven, were floated in the bowls of soup (I don't own proper onion soup bowls, but do own some larger sized Corningware remekins that are perfect for this,) topped with freshly grated Gryere cheese and placed under the broiler. I love cheese, so my bowl had two crostini and extra cheese. :-)

A "plain" but comforting tribute to the onion, usually an unassuming background guest to most meals, highlighted in a bowl of warmth.

Cheers oh mighty Onion!

Only One month until Christmas?

OMG! I better get started on my cookie baking now!

Oh wait, I started already. :-)

Actually, I didn't start out with the plan to get a head start on my Christmas baking. It just ended up happening that way in the end.

My oldest son has been sick the last few days, home from school with a high fever. He is not, however, old enough to be on his own even for the 30 minutes it would take me to get back and forth to school to drop off and later, pick up, his younger brother. So my neighbour, whose daughter is in the same school and has the same hours as my youngest, has been kind enough to do drop off and pick up for me. So my Christmas baking started out as a way to say thanks to her. Funny how things morph from one plan to another so quickly!

Friday afternoon, while my oldest slept off some of his fever, I got busy in an uncluttered kitchen, alone with my stand mixer and ingredients. (It is amazing how much more quickly I can knock out a recipe without 4 year old help.) All my butter was frozen for future use, so recipe options were slightly limited. But knowing my neighbour, I knew she would appreciate a plate full of Ginger cookies. I didn't take a picture of these because I had already posted about them here. The recipe makes more than 3 dozen large sized cookies - more than enough to give her a big thanks and to stash some away in the freezer for when the house is filled with people.

Making ginger cookies put me into an odd frame of mind. Not sure how, but it led me to thinking about my Grandfather. Normally when I am baking cookies, the voice of my grandmother is in my head (sometimes way in the background,) telling me how she never had the patience for cookies, but she could knock out a pie in a jiffy! So baking cookies didn't lead me to think of my Grandfather, but baking coconut macaroons pointed me in his direction.

My Grandfather is in his late 70's, and still likes to tell stories about how when he was a kid he stole packages of shredded coconut from the local store so he could just eat it straight. I once bought a whole coconut so that we could crack it open, educate my oldest son about it, then have it on hand so my Grandfather could snack on fresh coconut for the rest of his visit.

These cookies are very easy to make: Mix together in a large bowl 3 egg whites, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 cup of white sugar, until light and frothy. Add in 5 1/3 cups of sweetened flaked coconut. Scoop by rounded tablespoon (this is where a nice scoop comes in handy) on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake 20 - 30 minutes at 350F, or until they are golden brown. They won't spread while baking, but keep a close eye out because the edges will burn quickly if you don't. Allow to cool on wire rack before chomping down on a few. Store in airtight container.

These cookies will not make it to Christmas, but were so simple to make that I can whip up a new batch even when I only have a few minutes of time. Which is good, because I've promised my Grandfather I will bake him some when we go up to visit next. Or when he comes here.

Btw, like my pretty new plates? I treated myself to a set of dishes yesterday, square white plates and bowls with Platinum rims. I don't know why some people think I am hard to buy for - you can always buy me fun dishes or cooking items!

Having been in a baking mode, today I decided to continue on with it. I had taken one block of butter out of the freezer, so I was prepared for making a butter based cookie. Looking through my traditional recipes, I wasn't smilling. Every year I make a whipped shortbread recipe, which was fine when I was a more inexperienced cook. Not only am I not an inexperienced cook, I'm a more finicky eater. I really don't like that recipe much, it never turns out the way I wanted, and the 10 minutes of whipping, to me, makes them too floury, and easily breakable. I want my shortbread to be tender, but not so tender that they fall apart when you pick them up.

With that in mind, I decided to try the recipe for Multiple Personality Shortbread cookies from Today's Parent. Not too multiple though - I doubled the recipe and made plain shortbread with half then added semi-sweet chocolate chips for the other half. I haven't tried the plain yet, have only tried the chocolate version, but think next time I will use milk-chocolate chips instead.
Though the children both tried them and hmmmm'd through their cookies, then told me that I made the best cookies ever! What greater praise can a home baker get? :-)

The real test will be to see how these handle freezing and defrosting.

I still have plans for several more types of cookies, including sugar cookies (a quiet day project to do with the children), chocolate-caramel squares, and I'm open minded enough to take suggestions from others for a few more recipes, so if you have one and think I should try it, send it along!

Now if you will excuse me, there is a container full of coconut cookies in my kitchen, calling my name.

PS. Speaking of cookies - check out my entry for this months Does My Blog Look Good in This.
For this one I submitted my picture of star cookies that I made for my son's birthday last month.

Generally when I submit a picture for this (this is my 3rd or 4th time), I'm usually reasonably happy with the quality of my pic, until I see the other entries. Then I just feel like I need to go take some photography lessons. And buy some new dishes. And backdrops. I'm not the only one, but oh well.

Falling behind on my blogging

I took a few extra shifts at work last week, not a huge amount of hours since each shift is only 3 hours long, but enough that I was distracted from my usual routine in regards to cooking and blogging. So here is a make-up post of some of the things I have made since last week, up to today!

I'm finding certain blogs are more "useful" to me than others, though I enjoy reading alot of them and my list of blogs grows with every event. The recent comfort event yielded 7 new blogs for my list! Good thing I love to read! However for recipes I tend to actually print out and cook, one blog has been tagged by me several times: Elise at Simply Recipes. She was one of the first blogs I tagged on Bloglines.

So it was a copy of a recipe from Elise's blog I turned to when I decided to roast a whole chicken last week. She had recently posted about a roasted garlic chicken, and I had immediately printed it off and gone shopping. Of course it took me a few days to actually get around to making the chicken, but eventually I did.

This chicken sat in a brine in my fridge for 24 hours, the brine made up of roasted garlic, lemon juice, water, salt, pepper and a bayleaf. It smelled amazing, especially considering it was raw chicken! Once roasted, the chicken itself was very moist and had good flavor, but I did not notice any of the flavor, or any further odor of roasted garlic. Sad, so sad. I love garlic. Despite that, I will make this chicken again. I will simply add more garlic and roast it 10-15 minutes longer so that my chicken is the dark, golden color of Elise's chicken.

Friday was a PD day for both my children. They both went to work with me that morning, then came home to a lazy afternoon. That lazy afternoon included making cupcakes with Mom though, including icing. Not a bad way to spend a day off school.

Our cupcake choice that day was for carrot cupcakes, with a cream cheese icing, a recipe I had used before, which can be found online at Today's Parent. Both boys helped out, with my oldest measuring out ingredients carefully, and my youngest pouring things into the mixer. I probably should have taken a picture but really didn't want icing sugar all over my camera.

The final result looked like these ones in the picture - I did the icing, not one of the children, and the last of those cupcakes were eaten today, making them the longest lasting cupcakes this house has seen in awhile!

Saturday night was date night for my husband and I. I took along my camera to the restaurant and will blog about that at a later time, pictures included.

Sunday night I made hamburgers, by request, but put my own spin on them. Double cheese burgers, but not the usual double of two patties. Instead these had cheese stuffed inside them as well as melted on top of them.

I was after a Tex-mex flare to my burgers, and had intended to use some salsa in or on them (but was personally distracted by coleslaw for on them later.) Lean ground beef was seasoned with salt, pepper and cumin, then bound together with an egg. I can't for the life of me remember what else I put into the burgers for seasonings, but those ingredients I am sure of.

After mixing the meat mixture up, I shapped them into very thin patties, using some waxed papper, piled high the shredded Monterey Jack cheese in the middle, then topped them with another thin patty before sealing them closed and trapping the cheese inside. It was already black outside when I needed to cook them, so I opted for a frying pan rather than the bbq. Still these burgers ended up with good color and very little of the cheese managed to escape the center. Served with coleslaw and flavorful potato chips, dinner was simple but yummy, something we all neeed to have while watching the Grey Cup.

Now I skip ahead a few days to day's dinner, chicken enchiladas, again a recipe I have made many times before, though I always consult my printed copy before I ignore it.

At one point this recipe came from a Weight Watchers CD I own (somewhere - I like cookbooks in every form.) Though if someone who initially wrote this recipe were to come in and see my version, I suspect they wouldn't recognize it as their own. For starters, mine uses flour tortillas instead of corn. And I don't measure much. I swap out green peppers for any other color, and I like cheese, so I use more than is called for. Plus the original produced 8 - 6 inch tortillas filled. Mine produced 14, using 8 inch tortillas. More is better, right?

Today I did something else a bit different while making it, though - I poached the chicken in chicken broth with some pepper. This allowed me to work on my veggies while not paying attention to the chicken, and resulted in meat that was very moist and flavorful. I will be doing this again the next time I want precooked chicken of any kind, it was that good.

This dish was supposed to be served with a simple salad with a ranch dressing, but instead I had it alone with just some sour cream. One of my children now has a fever (and not much interested in eating,) and the other informed me that he just wanted tortilla with cheese to dip, no chicken, no veggies, no sauce. Since it meant more enchiladas for my husband and I, I was not going to argue.

I'll post the recipe for the enchiladas after I have had a chance to look at my original and figure out the changes I made. Then I'll post the recipe I actually made!

Chicken Enchiladas

1 1/2 cups canned whole tomatoes, drained, or 1 28 oz can of diced tomatoes, drained (but reserve liquid in case you need to thin out sauce.)
1/2 cup chopped onion
3 garlic cloved, minced
1 1/2 teaspoon mild or hot chili powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
1/4 teaspoon salt
pinch ground red pepper, or pepper flakes
pink cinnamon

In a food processor or blender, combine all the ingredients and puree until smooth. Transfer to a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, simmer, stirring occasionally for 20 minutes, until thickenend.

1 teaspoon vegetable or olive oil
1 cup diced red bell pepper
1 cup diced green bell pepper (I used yellow and orange instead of green.)
1 cup diced onions, I prefer red onion here
14 8" flour tortillas
4 boneless, skinless chicken breast, cooked and shredded (try poaching in a pan with some chicken stock and pepper, bring to a boil then reduce and simmer until chicken is cooked through. Allow to cool a bit before shredding with two forks.)
2 cups Monterey Jack cheese, shredded

Preheat the oven to 375F.
In a large nonstick skillet, heat oil. Add vegetables and cook over medium-high heat, stirring frequently for about 5 minutes or until vegetables are softened.
Spread 1/4 cup tomato mixture into bottom of 13 x 9 pan (I prep two pans because one is two small.)

Place a tortilla onto a work surface. Spoon about 1 large tablespoon of bell pepper mixture into the center of the tortilla, in a line. Top with about equal amount of shredded chicken and cheese. Roll up to enclose filling. Place seam-side down in prepared pan. Repeat until out of tortillas, chicken and pepper mixture. You should still have about 1 cup of cheese left.
Top tortillas evenly with remaining sauce then sprinkle evenly with remaining cheese.
Bake 25-30 minutes, until heated through and bubbling.

Comfort from the kitchen

I was reminded yesterday that one of my favorite blogs Cream Puffs in Venice, was co-hosting an event called "Dishes of Comfort." Ivonne's single serve rice pudding dish, her choice for comfort on an autumn day, set my thoughs down the creamy dessert path in search of my own "dish of comfort" from my childhood.

While my mother used to cook alot when I was young, it is usually my grandmother's cooking I recall most when thinking of food. Her making apple pies, once I recall her making raspberries pies with me, with berries we'd picked just for my little birthday pie. Dessert was a requirement for just about every meal, as it is for her and my grandfather now. On those cold dreary days when she didn't want anything too fancy, my grandmother would pull out her box of Minute Tapioca and make a potfull to be enjoyed after dinner.

With those thoughts in mind, and a recipe dog eared in my August 2006 Cooking Light, I decided to make an old fashioned tapioca pudding, not from the box, but using real small pearl tapioca. Which I happened to have picked up when I first read the recipe, but had not yet gotten around to making it.

I admit, I've never made the tapioca from a box. I've eaten it, as well as the kind that comes in the mini snack sized pudding containers. I had high hopes that tapioca made from scratch, with real pearls, would be much more flavorful and soothing than the boxed kind.

I was disappointed.

It was good. The texture of the pearls was more pronounced than in the minute kind. But it couldn't hold up to my memory of the pudding my grandmother used to make sometimes. I have the feeling that nothing would. Afterall, you can't compete with a memory and expect to come out ahead.

I ended up making a few changes to the printed recipe. I substituted 1 cup of light cream, 10%, for some of the 2% milk. Mostly because I had it in the fridge and needed to use it. My timing was different - the recipe called for low heat for 30 minutes or until thickened. My pot was plenty thick in less than 15 minutes, and starting to scorch the bottom of the pot. Again, when it came to cooling it in an ice bath, my pudding was cool and thick well before the 15 minutes given in the recipe.

Looking at the online recipe now, copied here, I see readers only rated it 3 out of 5 stars. I think I can agree. As I said, it was good, but not so overwhelmingly good that I would seek out the pearl tapioca at a specialty store again rather than using the little red box that I can buy at a normal grocery store.

All this making, talking and reading about comfort food, however, has given me a craving for home made macaroni and cheese. Maybe for dinner tomorrow night.

Note: I forgot earlier to mention the name of the other co-host to Dishes of Comfort: Orchidea of Viaggi e Sapori. Thanks to both Ivonne and Orchidea!

Last minute dessert request

I hadn't planned on making dessert tonight. Though my little guy was hoping I would make him some rice krispie squares (which we can do tomorrow together.) His dad though, had a bad day and requested dessert. His actual request was for rhubbarb crumble with butter tarts on top of it, and macaroons on top of the butter tarts.

I didn't take him seriously.

But I did throw together a rhubbarb crumble for him, just to ease the day a little bit.

I always have lots of rhubbarb in my freezer. The reward, I guess, from planting a bush in my garden a few years ago. The stuff freezes amazingly well, and seems to keep forever. I can never tell the new bags from the old bags, they always look alike!

I didn't measure anything for the filling, simply threw the rhubbarb in a pan with some sugar, a sprinkly of nutmeg, some flour for thickening, and a nob of butter. I didn't bother adding any water, since the rhubbarb was coming straight from the freezer. While it stewed, I pulled out the crumble recipe I use for apple crumble and crumble pie, posted about here.

While we ate dinner (nothing fancy, meatballs with honey garlic sauce, steamed sugar snap peas and jasmine rice,) the crumble cooked.

Served with ice cream, I hope it made up a bit for the icky day.

Another pasta

I don't normally make lasagna. I buy it premade and pop it in the oven. The one recipe for lasagna I occassionally make (as in every couple of years,) involved 4 or so eggs, 3-4 pounds of different cheeses, breadcrumbs, sauce, and spinach as well as the noodles. Alot of work, and I couldn't eat it, it was too rich!

My husband, however, loves lasagna. Second only to spaghetti for him.

And my children will eat it too - or at least the noodles part.

So I decided to try making a lasagna for dinner, just not the fancy, heavy kind. And I didn't bother with a recipe either. (That really amazes my 7 year old, that I can make things without a recipe.)

I used no boil noodles, and a simple tomato and herb sauce that I watered down a bit. Separately I mixed together a package of frozen, chopped spinach, that I had defrosted and wrung dry, with a 500ml tub of extra smooth ricotta cheese, half a finely chopped red onion, some salt, pepper and a bit of freshly grated nutmeg. I layered the cheese mixture between noodles and sauce, making for 3 layers of lasagna (12 noodles for the pan I was using), then covered it with parmessan cheese before putting some foil on top and popping it into a 375F oven.

While the lasagna cooked, I chopped garlic. Lots and lots of garlic. Which I mixed with butter and slathered onto a few panini style buns I'd picked up that day, making my own garlic bread. it was so yummy, I should have made more. Though if I'd done that, I wouldn't have eaten any lasagna, garlic bread being one of my food weaknesses.

My lasagna turned out very well, with obvious layers of cheese and noodles, tender but not over done, or too rich. It wasn't light, but no lasagna ever is. Nor was it heavy though. Instead it was just the right balance, a filling and reasonably healthy cheese and spinach lasagna. I served it with the garlic bread I'd made as well as some caesar salad.

I think my husbands eyes lit up when he saw dinner, surprised that I would make him a lasagna. I was just happy to be in the kitchen, making something that everyone would eat.

Next time I think I'll make more garlic bread. Just in case.

Standing up for my own tastebuds

As in, I wanted fish for dinner. Fish with some crunch to it, but not the premade, frozen tempura battered fish that I know my family will eat, but real fish. My fishmonger suggested tilapia, so I went with his suggestion. Tilapia it would be, pan fried with a crispy coating. Close enough to battered without deep frying, healthier than the frozen stuff.

My coating was simple: breadcrumbs, parmesan cheese, parsley, salt and pepper. I cut each fillet in half, then dipped them in a mixture of egg and water before coating them in the bread crumbs. My pan was waiting, hot, with a combination of melted butter and olive oil, ready for the fish.

Oh it was good. It was very good. (Even the small bit left over the next day, reheated in the oven.) The outside was crunchy and flavorful, the inside mild and flaky. Even my picky seven year old liked it and complimented me on it.

I'm glad I decided to make what I wanted to eat instead of caving into the food likes and dislikes of the rest of the household. Everyone ended up eating it, and I enjoyed being able to cook something that I would like, no matter what anyone else felt about it.

In a food funk

I've not had alot of luck with new and different recipes when it comes to feeding my family lately. I can bake anything and they will eat it, but when it comes to meals, it has been very miss and miss lately. So this post is about some of the misses I've had, leading up to dinner tonight.

Last month I made two recipes in one night for dinner, one from memory, having seen it on Barefoot Contessa but not written it down or found it on FoodTV, for zuchinni gratin. I paired it up with parmesan chicken, which I had long ago bookmarked from Elise over at Simply Recipes. I didn't end up blogging about these simply because I came down with the flu the day after I made them, and by the time I was feeling better, it seemed a little late. And I had other things to blog about by then.

The chicken bites of parmesan were well received by everyone in the family. Crunchy, juicy and full of wonderful flavor, these were popular. There were no left overs. That was the good news.

The bad news was no one but me would eat the zuchinni gratin. Filled with pieces of zuchinni, sliced onions, a light cream sauce and covered in cheese and breadcrumbs, I found them to be a wonderful accompaniment to the crunchy chicken bites. They were soft and mellow, though still with a bite of texture to them. It was comfort food, a healthy side to the not very healthy chicken.

This dish ended up being brought over to my neighbours house to try, where it was liked by everyone, and a copy of the recipe was requested. Too bad I didn't actually have one and was just trying to remember what she had done!

Then a week or so went by where I didn't cook at all, being sick, being competely uninterested in food in any form. When I was better, I wanted to make up for being unable to cook, so I started out with spaghetti and meatballs (not pictured.)

Spaghetti always goes over well, meatballs are another hit and miss item. This time the children decided they were a miss without trying them. They worked for me, and for my husband.

I followed that meal up with another family favorite, baked ham with Poppa's sauce. Only I couldn't remember where I had put Poppa's sauce recipe, so I went from memory: gingerale, crushed pinapple with juices, brown sugar, honey, mustard and corn starch. I'm sure the preportions weren't exactly right, and I didn't bother measuring, but the sauce came out pretty close to the original created by my father-in-law and tasted very fine on the slow cooked, bone in ham. The biggest ham eater of our family, my husband, agreed, and ate alot of it between dinner that night and left overs for lunch. The children informed me they didn't like that kind of chicken and declined eating it. (Too bad I hadn't made chicken.)

There were a few days of left overs: left over pasta (thumbs up), left over ham and sauce with scalloped potatoes instead of mashed (thumbs down from children, up again from spouse.)

Then there was last night, moroccan chicken. This received several big thumbs up from my neighbours, including a phone call from her little girl telling me how much she loved the chicken I had made (which I thank her very much for, I was really needing the good review by then,) since they were the recipients of most of this meal when my family again declined to eat it.

I'm tempted to go on a creative cooking strike (again) but the last time I did that, I ended up frustrated from being unable to cook, and my family was completely happy eating things that came out of a box or a can.

Instead I have decided to creatively cook for myself. I will attempt to cook items for my family that they are likely to eat, and I will make something separate for me. Or I will cook and they either will or won't eat it, but I won't stress about it. I'll have lunch left overs instead.

With that philosophy in mind, I ended up at my local grocery store after school with two children who wanted to go home to play. Too bad, it was time to figure out what to make them for dinner. They surprised me; they were offered samples of linguini noodles with alfredo sauce, and both of them inhaled it.

Sounded good to me, so premade alfredo sauce in the cart, linguini noodles as well. Husband won't like it, but we had jarred sauce at home that he could have with his pasta instead, though I did decide to make some mild Italian sausages for the children and spouse as well, making the pasta with alfredo the side dish instead of the full meal. I had the feeling that the children would be unable to eat too much alfredo.

Sausages, however, were not what was on the menu for me. I wanted seafood, something I rarely get to eat because, again, I am the only member of my family who will eat it.

I love my fishmonger. He is friendly, knowledgable, and understands that I don't often buy fish when the rest of them won't eat it, but I frequently visit his department, both so I can see what is in, and because the kids, despite not eating it, love to visit the fish and see what new and funky things he has. Today he had bay scallops and shrimp for my alfredo. (And talapia fillets which I plan to make into "fish sticks" tomorrow for dinner.)

I'm sure some purists are shaking their head in disgust that I would use premade alfredo sauce, as well as having a jar of pasta sauce in my pantry. Oh well, too bad. I wasn't going to make alfredo from scratch, not with all the warm reception my cooking has had lately (and they had just tried the Farm Boy sauce and were willing to eat it at home, so let's not mess with what little works with them.) And jarred pasta sauce is a great emergency staple, one that is available for oops last minute meals. Beside's, I wasn't going to eat it, I was eating the alfredo, loaded with the scallops and shrimp, extra parmesan cheese mixed in and topping the pasta. Yum!

I hope everyone else has had an easier time feeding their families lately. Guess I should go find some outlets to my creative needs in the kitchen through my stand mixer. Wonder if I have enough flour?

Sneaking in a new recipe

I received my latest copy of Fine Cooking magazine late last week, the December 2006 issue, and finished the magazine with a long list of recipes I wanted to make. A bit unusual for me - I love to read magazines and cookbooks, I don't cook out of them that often. To have a magazine with so many recipes I want to try is amazing!

While I plan to make the cover recipe of prime rib roast for Christmas, right now it is November, a cold, rainy November, so instead I wanted to make warm and hearty. The article on braised chicken caught my attention, and the recipe for braised chicken legs with carrot juice, dates and spices made my attention sit up and notice! This was what I was looking for - hearty, warm and different. (And it is on page 58 for those who get the magazine. If not, the website hasn't updated for this issue yet.)

I should say that there has always been a good chance that no one other than myself would enjoy this meal. (Actually, that isn't true - my kind neighbour has said she will eat and enjoy anything I cook, so she frequently ends up with stuff that the rest of my family refuses to eat. I personally think I feed her quite well!) The addition of carrot juice and dates with chicken makes this a bit of a risk, but no risk, no gain. For all I know it could become one of my families favorite chicken recipes!

However, knowing how highly unlikely that is, I decided to boost my odds but making this while the children were at school. What they didn't see go into the chicken, they couldn't complain about. My children love carrots, but I suspected they would turn their noses up at carrot juice. And while I hoped to pass dates off as just very large raisins, I wouldn't worry too much if they chose not to eat them.

So to start, my version looks absolutely nothing like the picture in the magazine. Mine was brownish, theirs was a deep, warm red. Did I use the wrong kind of carrot juice? I hope not, I used juice that I made myself that afternoon! Maybe they had a specific type of cinnamon, one with tones of red in it. Sorry, mine was regular cinnamon. Same with the ground ginger and the cumin. No red anywhere. Yes my onion was red, as the recipe called for, but when you cook red onions, you know they lose their color.

And I definitely did not have a large enough pan for this. Those pieces of chicken were very crowded in my saute pan! Oh well.

I found this quite tasty, not too strong, but very flavorful. I love cumin, but could not taste it, though the cinnamon was the dominant spice, as I couldn't taste the ground ginger either. The chicken was tender, fall off the bone, the onions soft and melting. The dates didn't exactly grab me, I found them instead to be a bit too sweet and overwhelming. Perhaps if I had added them in earlier, or chopped them smaller instead of in half, they would have been softer and more mellow. However, eaten together with a bit of chicken and rice, they melted in nicely.

No idea yet how this meal will be received by my husband. My children have both decided they don't like it, they've never liked it and they won't ever like it, without even trying it or knowing what it was. Somedays it doesn't pay to try something new.

Regardless of how he feels, I have promised my neighbour at least one piece of chicken to try, so I still have hope that at least someone will like what I made for dinner tonight.

CBBP #2 - My package came!

Huge box waiting for me in my mail box today (okay the key to get into the package door was waiting for me in my mail box, but inside the door was a huge box!) All the way from Calgary, Alberta, where I lived as a child and haven't been to since I was about 12 or 13.

What an amazing package from Sara of I Like to Cook!

I actually opened it up while sitting at the playground after school, trying to stop the packing popcorn from flying away, while fighting off children wanting to eat the Kettle corn, with friends curious as to what I'd received! And what a package!

The first thing I saw was the Kettle corn, or Cowboy Popcorn. Then I saw a little post it note warning me of fragile items, which ended up being wrapped in a fabric shopping bag from Planet Organic. The items were a bottle of chilli garlic sauce and a jar of cranberry chutney. Also in the box was a jar of curry masala, a can of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, a large container of creamed honey, Sara's favorite type of honey, and a bar of cucumber and comfrey soap, very well wrapped.

My children can't wait until I break open the popcorn, and I can't wait to try out all the rest of my goodies, including the popcorn!

Thanks so much Sara!

It's good to be "home"

It's been over a week since I did much of anything in the kitchen. I was sick, a cold that turned into a flu, that aggravated my asthma, which aggravated the flu more, endless cycle of coughing and not getting better. A few days with an inhaler, a few nights of sleep, and I'm still coughing, but not as much and not as badly. Best of all, I am ready to both cook, and eat again.

I've so missed being able to cook.

Actually, when I was really sick, the only thing I really wanted was sleep, but if I had been getting that, I probably would have missed cooking too. Or at least eating.

So last night I cooked dinner for my family. Nothing too fancy; pork chops and carrots in a taryaki sauce, steamed yellow beans, and some steamed spaghetti squash for me. No pictures, no recipe, just what was thrown together. It was good to be back in the kitchen.

This morning the children and I had a breakfast date with old friends from out of town, but I had made a commitment before I came down sick, to make a baked good as part of the fundraising efforts for my son's taekwon-do school, who was hosting a large tournament today and wanted to have items for sale in the cafeteria. I was originally going to make chocolate chip cookies but when I woke up this morning, way too early, I didn't want to make cookies. I wanted to make brownies.

I am happy to say I managed to meet my original commitment and donate a batch of brownies to the fundraising efforts. I only hope they all sold out!

Having made a batch of brownies though, I promptly gave them all away, much to the dismay of my children (bags of Halloween candy notwithstanding, they are so hard done by!) So I made a second batch, with the help of my youngest son. This time I made them a little more kid friendly, putting them into individual mini-muffin tins and adding some Smarties to the bottoms. Both these things allowed my son to have a job: put the paper liners in the cups, and put a Smartie, his choice of color, on top of each of the brownies.

The brownies are extra chocolatey, and the house was filled with the scent of them baking (despite the big slow cooker filled with spaghetti and meatballs, made between the two batches of brownies.)

These little morsels of chocolate should be just about perfect for me. Unused to eating too much, or things that are too rich or decadent after a week of soup and orange juice, bite size brownies provide perfect portion control. And the Smartie on top of the brownies with the Smarties on the bottom reminds me that those brownies (36 of 48 of them) are meant for the children.

I don't miss doing dishes, or cleaning up the counter, but I'm happy to be back in my kitchen.

Seasonal baking

I had been playing around with whether or not I wanted to take part in Canadian Blogging by Post #2: Seasonal Bounty. It sounded fun, but I wasn't sure what I would make, or if I could make something that would provide me with items that could easily be mailed off, especially not items that would break the bank doing so!

Earlier this week I finally made up my mind to participate, so of course I am waiting until the last possible minute to post my recipe entry, and then send it off!

With the theme of Seasonal Bounty in mind, I finally chose to make some apple sauce bread, taking advantage of all the wonderful apples that are available at this time of year. I've made apple sauce bread for my family before - it's something that is nice to make in place of banana bread, and just as simple to make. However, knowing I was going to be doing a "special" blog about this bread, I decided I needed to "kick it up a notch!"

First I decided to make my own apple sauce, which I do every apple picking season, rather than use the convenient jars (which I didn't have, but I also didn't have apples, so had to go shopping either way.) I wanted this apple sauce to be the star of the bread, not the supporter. With that in mind I set out washing and chopping up apples. Not peeling, however. I wanted that pink tinge to the sauce. After cooking down the apples and pureeing them (a hand immersion blender is a handy thing to have), I ran the sauce through a sieve, something I don't normally do. The sauce that came out was smooth and fresh, with the pinkish color I was looking for.

Then I kicked it up some more.

Back to the stove the apple sauce went, with a few additions this time: cinnamon, fresh grated nutmeg, and a touch of cloves. Covered and with low heat, I wanted the consistency of apple butter. Which means patience, something I don't always have alot of. When I was satisfied, the sauce was a darker, thicker apple sauce, with the scents of the spices wafting through my house.

The next notch up involved a bit of an add in - not my families usual favorite of dried cranberries and chocolate chips, but chopped up, dried apples. I felt dried would be better than fresh in this case, hoping they would retain a bit of their shape and texture through the baking, which I didn't think fresh apple chunks would do. I wanted more apple bite in the bread, not just more subtle apple flavor.

Finally I was ready to actually start baking. The batter is easy enough, using the creaming method for butter and sugar. Add in the eggs and vanilla. The usual way to start. This batter had a bit of added milk in addition to the apple sauce, helping to keep the final product moist.

I admit I almost forgot to add in the cinnamon to the batter with the dried ingredients, but caught myself just in time! The last item in was the chopped up apple pieces, mixed in by hand so as not to overwork the batter. I wanted a light textured bread, not a brick!

The two loaves baked up brown and tall, again making the house smell all warm and comfortable (a necessity with the head colds in the family this week!) And as hoped, the pieces of apple were visible throughout the loaves, and still had a bit of a bite to them! Horray!

I am very pleased with how this bread came out. The apple flavor is not subtle, nor are the spices, but neither are they overwhelming. This bread is so much tastier than the original version! I may have a hard time going back to it when I need a quick bread for lunches around here!

Now to send this blog off to Jasmine so I can participate in Blogging by Post!

Apple Sauce Bread (From the Pillsbury: The complete book of baking)
This is a variation on the banana bread recipe found in the book

3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup margaine or butter, softened
2 eggs
1 cup apple sauce (jarred is okay, homemade is better)
1/3 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups all purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 - 1 cup chopped up, dried apples

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease bottom only of 9x5 or 8x4 loaf pan (I have no idea what size I have but I always have enough for 2 loaves.) In large bowl, beat sugar and butter until light and fluffy. Bean in eggs. Add applesauce, milk and vanilla. Blend well.
In a small bowl, combine flour, cinnamon, baking soda and salt. Mix well. Add to apple sauce mixture; stir just until ingredients are moistened. Stir in chopped apples.
Pour into greased pans, bake at 350F for 50-60 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 5 minutes in pan before turning out on wire rack.

Apples sauce (my grandmother used to have this funky funnel that she used for making apple sauce, which I don't have, but you can make it without.)

spash of water
dash of salt
sprinkle of sugar
cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, optional and to taste

Clean apples and remove core. Cut them into big chunks and put into a heavy bottomed pot. If the apples are very wet, you do not need to add more water. Sprinkle a small pinch of salt on the apples, and a bit of sugar, how much sugar depending on how sweet you like your apple sauce and how sweet your apples are to begin with. If you want, now is the time to add spices. Put the lid on the pot and cook over medium-low heat, coming to check and stir the apples every once in awhile. They are done when all the pieces are soft and broken down - some of the apple flesh itself actually looks like it is foaming. Using an immersion blender (or moving in batches to a regular blender if you don't have an immersion), puree the apples until smooth, skin and all. If you want extra smooth apple sauce, strain the sauce through a sieve to remove the bits of skin that don't puree up fine. Store in an airtight container in the refridgerator for about a week - though it never lasts that long with my children. Can also be frozen.

You'll need a few extra napkins with dinner tonight

I didn't plan to make icky, sticky, yummy ribs for dinner last night. I'd actually planned to make steak and double baked potatoes. Until I went into my freezer for steak, saw I had one simmering steak (no idea why one, or why the simmering kind), then saw a package of short ribs underneath it. Spareribs sounded so much better than steak all of a sudden, and didn't require me to bbq in the rain or snow.

I seriously considered making my grandmother's sweet and sour sauce again. Afterall, it is a family favorite that everyone loves, I can make it with my eyes closed, and it is nearly foolproof. With a cold coming on, I wasn't up for anything complicated. But I'd made it recently and wasn't sure if I had any pinapple. Honey garlic was next on my list, mostly because I had a jar of prepared sauce in the pantry. Premade sauce didn't appeal much either, though the honey garlic part still did. So I made my own.

I wanted more control over the ribs than simply making a sauce, pouring it over them and throwing it in the oven, but I didn't want to have to hover. Which is why, I think, I decided to pull out my big electric frying pan with the nice domed lid. I could start the sauce in the pan, add the ribs, and keep an eye on them as they baked with the closed lid, stirring frequently without loosing all the heat.

Honey garlic sauce is fairly easy to make. Equal parts of honey and soya sauce, add in garlic to the strength you want, mix it well to make sure the honey is melted into the soy, pour it on whatever you are making. Sometimes I measure. Sometimes I don't. Today was an I don't day. I added a generous amount of honey to the hot pan, then added in the soy and mixed them together, watching them sizzle and foam. The kitchen smelled instantly wonderful. Knowing garlic mellows as it cooks, I wanted lots of garlic going in, and I wanted it in early enough that it would add its flavor into the sauce early in the cooking. The picture on the left is the sauce just as I've thrown in the rough chopped garlic.

After making sure everything was mixed well, and tasting the sauce just in case I needed to adjust preportions (I did, I needed more honey), I added in the cut up short ribs, made sure they were all coated, turned down the heat and put the lid on. This gave me lots of time to make some rice in the steamer and prepare some asparagus for roasting.

The ribs came out tender, ooey, gooey and very, very good. Clean up was easy as there were no baked on bits of sauce and garlic in a caserole dish, and there were plenty of napkins available when licking sauce off the fingers weren't appropriate.

I bought myself a present!

Can you guess?

Too easy!

An ice cream machine! This has been on my wish list for longer than I had wanted a stand mixer for. This first batch I made, vanilla of course, used the recipe from the book that came with my little toy. I even went out and bought a vanilla bean.

Next batch. I wish I could remember who's blog I got this recipe from. I wrote it down instantly this summer, I think it was featured in a Sugar High Friday, but I can't remember who posted it originally! (So if you know, please comment or PM me so I can link it!)

Isn't it a pretty color? And the dark flecks in it are more blueberries, added while the machine was still mixing and churning.

Unfortunately I have a bit of a cold right now, so I had a really hard time with tasting the flavors of both of these. They were both very creamy, and smooth. Even if I hadn't known, I would have been able to say that real cream was used in both of them. In this case it was most of what I could taste, though my husband, the bigger vanilla fan, told me it was great. I'll have the kids try the blueberry later and tell me what they think, and in the meantime I will curse my bad karma that I had to get a cold that mutes my own tastebuds just when I finally get to make homemade ice cream!

On the bright side, at least I will have some nice cold, soothing treats to eat as my throat gets more and more raw from coughing.

Next plan is to try making vanilla frozen yogurt.